Monday, August 12, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Myrtle Beach

The family that lived across the street from me had seven kids.  Well, there were seven kids that I knew about.  There always seemed to be a strange teenager lurking around that may or may not have been in the family.  I was friends with the two youngest boys, Richard and Robert.  The Father was a big scary man that I heard speak twice.  He looked like a cross between Fred McMurray and Herman Munster.  He was never home and I never recall knowing where he worked or what he did.  He was just a hulking man that completely ignored Richard and Robert like they were feral dogs that lived in the back yard.

The mother’s name was Lil.  I remember her as being a chain smoker that was always lying on the couch with daytime TV droning on in front of her.  I can’t ever recall seeing her stand upright.  She was always in a robe in a prone position with overflowing ashtrays scattered around her like toadstools.  The shades were always drawn in the living room and the room was in a permanent haze due to the smoke.  It looked like a drawing I had seen in a New Yorker Magazine of a 1800s opium den.  Come to think of it, her basic lifestyle was that on an opium addict.  She also ignored Richard and Robert like they were feral dogs, which for the most part, they were.

Richard and Robert’s older siblings spent their days primarily listening to David Bowie records and smoking pot upstairs behind locked doors.  I once was allowed the privilege of sitting on their sister Linda’s bed while she played “Ziggy Stardust” on her RCA stereo while a poster of Bowie in Ziggy garb looked down on me.  As she explained why Bowie was so awesome, I noticed a pair of her pink cotton panties on the floor, at which point she threw us out of the room after classifying me as a “pervert”.  I really should have refuted this charge as she was the one playing androgynous rock music and displaying pink panties to a prepubescent boy.  I was truly an innocent at this point in my life.  I must confess that upon reflection I wonder if I would find myself subconsciously aroused if I opened a department store circular to discover a panty advertisement while “Five Years” was on my stereo.  Best not to dwell on such things…

Each August the entire family would go on vacation to Myrtle Beach for two weeks.  Every year it was the same vacation; Myrtle Beach at a campground in their attached trailer.  Why Bob, the father, thought it would be relaxing to cram seven kids and a woman that was an obvious opium addict into an International Harvester Travelall for a nine hour drive to a mosquito ridden campground, I have no idea.  That’s what he did though.  Every single year.  As far as Richard and Robert were concerned, it was awesome.  They would come back two weeks later sunburned to a crisp after having two weeks of running amok in Myrtle, with new hermit crab pets in tow.  These hermit crabs were always dead within a week due to neglect.  If you ever thought about where the wild dirty barefoot kids with Kool Ade stained mouths, shaggy haired teenagers smoking on the boardwalk, and parents that were all buzzed up on Stroh's and Canei wine came from at Myrtle Beach, please know that at least nine of them came from Erie PA.

This summer tradition died a horrible death one fateful year on our nation’s highways.  The family was enjoying their inhumane travel conditions in the beat-to-shit Travelall on their return trip.  Richard and Robert were riding in the trailer.  One has to remember that this was a different time.  I wouldn’t say that parents were encouraged to place their children at risk, but it was well before children wore helmets for any outdoor activity.  The only helmet you wore while riding a bike was a football helmet because you were going to play a sandlot game in pads.  Kids played with fireworks, built dangerous tree houses, and checked in with their parents only around meal times.  Safety was more relative then.  Granted, my parents wouldn’t have allowed my brother and me to ride in a hitched camper, but Bob and Lil were probably just worn out from all those kids.  If you lose a couple of them, who would even notice?  Lil was always so zoned out, it was hard to decipher if she was even aware of the kids at all.

What transpired on the drive home was perhaps the most exciting event in that family’s dysfunctional lives.  The cause would be debated for years, fingers pointed at many scapegoats.  After being crammed into a camper for 14 days with nine people, Dad’s nerves were probably shot.  Or maybe the the years of mechanical neglect finally caught up to the camper.  Whatever the reason, as Dad rolled down the highway he noticed a camper unattached to any vehicle roll by him in the right lane.  Not any camper.  His camper.  He knew it was his as he saw the faces of Richard and Robert pressed up against the window, their cries of panic silent through the glass of the side windows.  The trailer then veered off the road to the right at a slight angle, the boy’s faces still pressed against the window as it tumbled from view off the roadside.  The accounts differed on how many times it rolled, but what was agreed on by both Richard and Robert was that it was “a lot”.  Richard broke his collar bone and Robert broke his arm.

I still remember the hush that fell over the neighborhood as the dented camper was dragged home into the driveway.  It was like a wounded WWII bomber limping in over the cliffs of Dover.  The top left corner was crushed in, windows broken, and it moved with a shimmy that must have been spectacular at any speed over 35 mph.   The boys emerged from the Travelall in their casts and slings, and the story was told.  It was retold.  And it was told again.  It was their finest hour.  The trailer sat in the driveway for well over two years before it was quietly towed away one afternoon while we were at school.  It was the family’s last trip to Myrtle Beach, and perhaps their last vacation as a family. 

I haven’t had a vacation like that in years, where it is more about survival than enjoyment.  There is something pure about being totally out of reach, with your days being dictated completely by the rhythms of the shore.  Having sand in everything and just giving into it.  Two full weeks where no one cares about what you are doing.  Fourteen consecutive days where your only oasis is a sand fly ridden camper sounds pretty good at this point of the year.  There’s only three weeks left of what I consider summer.  I need a camper and right away.  I bet I could get a good price on both that Travelall and that crushed 70s vintage number. 


At August 26, 2013 at 6:17:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

White cliffs of Dover comment is priceless, but somewhat muted along with the tale as I cannot get the Canei wine jingle out of my head.


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